Libraries are for Use

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A Library Credit Course and Student Success Rates: A Longitudinal Study


A Library Credit Course and Student Success Rates: A Longitudinal Study.

Pretty interesting study…the statistical analysis is relatively thorough (for LIS research).   The University of West Georgia has been providing a two-hour credit course on library skills as part of the core curriculum.  The researchers compared the 4-, 5-, and 6-year graduation rates, as well as the graduation GPAs of those who took the course with those who did not.  What is impressive with this study is the lengths they went to to increase the validity of their analysis:

  • Looking only at first-time freshmen who started in the fall semester (to control for previous college experiences).
  • Checking the high-school GPA and standard college entrance exams of the two groups to ensure that they were about the same, at least on these measures.
  • Examining data from multiple cohorts of students.

The researchers did use appropriate statistical analyses and tests, which they very clearly explained.  I really  liked how they spelled out the null and alternate hypotheses, making it clear what they were testing.  And they were very clear on the results – what was “rejected” and what that means.  I only wish they had provided 95% confidence intervals so we could see how large the differences in graduation rates actually were.

So, enough about the methodology – what caught my eye with this article was the results.  Graduation rates were much higher for those who took the course than those who didn’t – from 30% to over twice as high.

It was disappointing, however, that the difference decreased over time.  Here are two graphs I made from the summary tables:

Jean Marie Cook A Library Credit Course and Student Success Rates: A Longitudinal Study Coll. res. libr. May 2014 75:272-283

Data from Jean Marie Cook
A Library Credit Course and Student Success Rates: A Longitudinal Study
Coll. res. libr. May 2014 75:272-283

Data from Jean Marie Cook A Library Credit Course and Student Success Rates: A Longitudinal Study Coll. res. libr. May 2014 75:272-283

Data from Jean Marie Cook
A Library Credit Course and Student Success Rates: A Longitudinal Study
Coll. res. libr. May 2014 75:272-283

So, what could be happening here?  Since they looked at 4-6 year graduation rates, let’s look only at classes through 2005.  The researchers did not include the overall graduation rates, which would help understand the context.  But it looks like the rate of those who did not take the course went up slightly, while the rates for those who took the course went down.  Notice the regression lines for these two trends and the values of the beta (what “x” is multiplied by).

WestGA_GradRates_1999-2005

Now, look at the rate of students who took the course over that same time period (1999-2005):

Rate of enrollment in LIBR1101

This could possibly explain the declining difference in the graduation rates – a declining rate of students taking the course.

Another interesting aspect of this study was that there was very little difference between the graduating GPAs of the students who did and did not take. Also interesting was that GPAs increased over time:

Comparison of GPAs

So, here’s my take on this study:

  • Those who took the for-credit course on library skills were more likely to graduate than those who did not.
  • This occurred despite little difference in graduating GPAs, high-school GPAs and college entrance exams between these groups.
  • The difference in graduation rates has declined over the last few years, coincidentally with a decline in the rate of students taking the course.  Could these be related?

The authors do note that a limitation of this study was not including student demographics, such as race and socioeconomic factors, which have been shown to be associated not only with graduation rates, but also use of the library (see the LIB-VALUE project).

I am quite impressed with this study – it has inspired me to look more deeply at other factors.  And, I am impressed with what the study found – it appears that more in-depth instruction in library skills does improve graduation rates.

*The data for all graphs and charts comes directly from Jean Marie Cook, A Library Credit Course and Student Success Rates: A Longitudinal Study, College & Research Libraries, May 2014 75:272-283.

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